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Did The Lord Come In A.D. 70?

Gary Young

In recent years the brotherhood has been troubled by a doctrine, known variously as “Kingism”, “Realised Eschatology” or the “A.D. 70 doctrine”. This teaching advocates, among other things, that the Second Coming of Jesus Christ, the resurrection of the dead and the Judgement all occurred in the year A.D. 70, in which the Roman armies destroyed the city of Jerusalem and the temple of God that stood in the city.

Of course, as with all such doctrines there are numerous variants which differ with the parent doctrine at one point or another. However, all will generally agree on the points mentioned above, and so it is proposed to deal with these points and to see if they are compatible with the doctrines of the resurrection, second coming and judgement as they are revealed in the Bible.

Firstly, however, it should be noted which facts are universally recognised about the events of A.D. 70. It is an undisputed fact that the Roman army under Titus Flavius Vespasianus besieged the city of Jerusalem and destroyed it in A.D. 70, thus fulfilling the prophecy of Christ who had stated concerning the temple “There shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down” (Matt. 24: 2).

This, and all the other events of the Jewish-Roman war of A.D. 66-74, are recorded in the eye-witness account by the Jewish historian Flavius Josephus. His account, while serving Josephus’ (and Vespasian’s) own political agenda, gives a clear picture of the depravity into which the Jews had fallen, and a first-hand account of the fulfilment of Jesus’ prophecy concerning the total destruction of the city and the temple. These, then, are the facts of A.D. 70 which are beyond dispute. As we will see, however, the doctrines of the A.D. 70 theory are without support of either Scripture or secular history. These, by contrast, teach clearly that the resurrection of the dead and the return of our Lord are yet future events.

COULD THE RESURRECTION HAVE TAKEN PLACE IN A.D. 70?

One of the clearest Biblical teachings in God’s word is the fact that a resurrection of the dead is to take place. On that occasion, Christ affirms, “all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth: they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life: and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation” (John 5: 28-29). In addition, Paul adds: “Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air” (1 Thess. 4: 17).

The affirmation of those who believe the A.D. 70 theory is that this event has already taken place, occurring at some unspecified time close to the destruction of the temple by the Romans. Obviously, there cannot have been a physical resurrection of the dead at that time, as there are numerous examples of human remains dating from before A.D. 70, for example Egyptian mummies, some of which date from before 3000 B.C.

However, when the Biblical teaching on the resurrection is examined, it will be found that a physical, corporeal raising of the dead is precisely what is being taught! In his great chapter on the resurrection, Paul stated: “Behold, I shew you a mystery; we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed. In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed” (1 Cor. 15: 51-52). Note carefully that Paul is here considering a change, or a transformation, from a mortal body into an immortal one (1 Cor. 15: 53). We do not gain a new spiritual existence separate to our previous corporeal one: Paul clearly describes the transformation of the old body into the new body. If this had indeed taken place in A.D. 70, then there would be no human remains upon the earth dating from before that time! The fact that there are is clear proof that there was no resurrection of the dead in A.D. 70, or indeed at any time prior to our own time.

Indeed, in Paul’s teaching to the Thessalonians, he noted that the raising of the dead is to occur at the same time as the living Christians of that time are taken to heaven (1 Thess 4: 16-17). This means that if the resurrection of the dead occurred in A.D. 70, then necessarily all Christians on the earth at that time would have gone into the clouds to be with the Lord forever (1 Thess. 4: 17). At this time, if this theory were true, the church on earth would have ceased to exist! Of course, such an eventuality is completely unnoticed by any contemporary source - unsurprising, as of course this event never occurred.

Thus, the general resurrection of the dead as outlined in the Bible has clearly not taken place. The Bible talks of a physical, corporeal resurrection for the dead, accompanied by the glorification of the living saints. These events as they are described in the Bible have clearly not yet taken place.

COULD THE LORD HAVE COME IN A.D. 70?

The fact that Jesus stated he was going to return is not disputed by any who truly believe the Bible. The question at issue is, however, has the Lord already returned (in A.D. 70) or is this event still in the future? We have already noted considerable evidence that proves the resurrection of the dead has not yet taken place, and an examination of Scripture will show that the coming of the Lord will occur at the same time as the resurrection (1 Thess. 4: 16). Thus, even from what has already been discussed, it can be seen that the Lord has not yet come.

However, there are other things which are to take place at the Lord’s return which also have clearly not taken place. Peter teaches that on that day the heavens and the earth shall be destroyed: “But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up” (2 Peter 3: 10). Although many have tried for the sake of one false theory or another to deny the clear meaning of this passage, it is evident to all those who read it with an open mind that Peter is teaching that the heavens and the earth will be utterly consumed upon the Lord’s return. Therefore, the very presence of the earth beneath our feet today is clear evidence that the Lord has not returned!

Also, let us consider the teaching of Paul in 2 Thessalonians 2, where he details an apostasy (falling away) that must take place before the Lord returns (2 Thess. 2: 3-8). First of all we notice that this falling away of the “man of sin”, usurping the prerogatives of God (2 Thess. 2: 4) had not yet come into full appearance when Paul wrote 2 Thessalonians (about A.D. 55). We also note that this same apostasy was to be destroyed personally by the Lord at his coming (2 Thess. 2: 8). Certainly, digression and apostasy had entered into the church by A.D. 70, but if we are to believe that Christ’s return was at that date then we must believe that the burgeoning apostasy was destroyed at that time also! One glance at the history of the church after A.D. 70 shows that this is assuredly not the case - the apostasy rather bloomed and flourished after A.D. 70; and, as Paul told us in 2 Thessalonians, will not cease until the Lord destroys it personally at his coming. Those who espouse the A.D. 70 theory have no plausible candidate for the “man of sin”, their own protestations notwithstanding: there is simply no-one involved in the Jewish revolt, either on the Jewish or Roman side, who answers the description given by Paul. It is thus clear that the Lord could not have returned in A.D. 70.

“SPIRITUAL” INTERPRETATION OF SCRIPTURE

How, we might ask, can the adherents of this doctrine ignore so much plain Bible teaching on these matters as to support their fanciful theories? The ‘secret’ in fact lies in what the initial promulgator of this doctrine, Max King, described as the ‘key’ to the understanding of Scripture. The basis of this viewpoint is that these “end-time” scriptures are to be understood “spiritually”. By this, the A.D. 70 adherent generally means that the Scriptures which deal with such things as the judgement, the resurrection and the return of the Lord are not to be understood in a literal sense, but in fact are to be taken as symbolic of something else. By this means, they contend, the Scriptures concerning resurrection are to be taken not as referring to a literal resurrection but as describing the church “rising from the grave of Judaism”; the Scriptures talking of judgement are speaking of the judgement that fell upon the Jewish nation in A.D. 70. We might therefore well ask whether this is a reasonable means of interpreting Scripture.

Firstly, we should note that there are indeed prophecies which should be understood in a spiritual fashion. For example, the Jews persistently misunderstood the prophecies of the Kingdom, so that they assumed the Kingdom of God would be a physical kingdom rather than a spiritual realm. However, there are clear distinctions to be drawn between these prophecies and those pertaining to the judgement and resurrection.

In the first place, the Scriptures about the kingdom which were misinterpreted by the Jews were found in highly figurative parts of Scripture, veiled in the kind of apocalyptic language we find in such books as Isaiah, Zechariah and Ezekiel. They were, however, explained by clear statements of Scripture such as that of Jesus in John 18: 36, in which he bluntly stated to Pilate that “My Kingdom is not of this world”. Thus, we can use the clear and simple statements of Scripture to interpret the more difficult ones, a fundamental principle of both hermeneutics and common sense.

By contrast, the A.D. 70 doctrine expects us to believe that all the statements of Scripture regarding the end of the world are to be understood figuratively, and none are to be interpreted literally. There are, in this system of doctrine, no clear and simply stated Scriptures which allow us to interpret the more difficult ones! Instead, we must, apparently, rely upon Max King’s “key”. The adherents of the doctrine will, of course, claim that this is not the case; but the fact remains that the A.D. 70 doctrine requires that we take no “end-time” prophecy at face value: all are to be systematically re-interpreted according to the dictates of this false doctrine. The net result of this is that all Scripture means pretty much whatever King and his adherents want it to mean. Regardless of what the Scripture actually says or implies, this can be ignored in favour of the “spiritual” interpretation favouring the A.D. 70 doctrine.

This system of interpretation, then, bears absolutely no resemblance to the legitimate use of spiritual interpretation that we use in interpreting many figurative areas of Scripture. If it were indeed true that the entirety of Scripture on any given subject were to be interpreted figuratively, how could we be sure that we know the truth about that subject? Without any clear Scriptures we are to interpret literally, we can have no way of understanding the Scriptures which are figurative. Yet, this is what we are supposed to believe about the resurrection: the only way of knowing the truth about the resurrection is by means of the teachings of King and his disciples. Of course, they will tell us that this is not the case, but the fact remains that no-one will come up with this complicated, irrational system of doctrine without “outside help”.

CONCLUSION

The foregoing is but a brief examination of some of the arguments against the notion that the Lord’s return and the resurrection of the dead could have occurred in A.D. 70. There are many more problems with this theory, but it is hoped that this is enough to convince the honest soul of the error of this position.

We can in no way regard this as a “harmless theory”: we should all be very sure that souls are at stake in this matter. Faithful brethren have been accused of “drawing lines of fellowship” on this matter, but we should know that the lines of fellowship have already been drawn by God. 2 Timothy 2: 17-18 teaches us quite clearly that those who teach that the resurrection has passed already have erred concerning the truth. The resurrection of the dead did not occur in A.D. 70 or at any time since, as Scripture, history and logic all teach. Thus, those who teach that it did are evidently in the same condition as those who taught this in Paul’s time. It is not preachers who draw these lines of fellowship, but God.

Truly, the teachings of this doctrine are but a hollow mockery of the teachings of the New Testament on the resurrection and judgement. The return of the Lord is something to which the Christian can look forward with earnest expectation, knowing that on that day he will see the Lord face to face. This, and not some event in the distant past, lies at the centre of the Christian’s hope.

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